The day had not started out this way. It was the middle of the summer holidays and I had been busy running forest school sessions every day, meanwhile the demanding business of work and homelife was piling up, leaving me feeling overwhelmed. I had a rare day indoors and, with husband off work to look after the kids, I was looking forward to getting on top of the mountain of emails and reclaiming a sense of calm. However, after some initial in-roads and false starts, the broadband went off leaving me shouting at the computer and frustratingly unable to deal with any of the priority tasks on my worryingly long list.
With stress levels rising I decided the only course of action to walk away from it all, turn my back on it and find some peace elsewhere. I decided to set off for the horizon, the heather-clad moors to the west and go as far as I could before I was walking down the other side. The destination was clear, but I decided in the spirit of a spontaneous microadventure I would find my way there without a map and, where there was a choice of route, to always take the road less traveled.
Of course it was easy at first, following the well known paths from my house, with the sight of the moors easily visible a few miles in the distance. In the next village I headed down to the right, knowing that if I went left I would have the easier option of staying on a road to which would take me to the foot of the moorland paths. The right track brought me to a beck and a footpath I had never known was there. I followed the water way for a while, confident that it must be taking me in the right direction. An arrow sign pointing right indicated the path left the beck so I followed it and found myself in a series of fields with no visible way out. I wandered around for some time following every sheep track, thinking I had found the path, only to come up short next to a dry stone wall or barbed wire fence, imagining a farmer would appear at any moment and accuse me of trespassing. When I set off I had wondered how far you have to walk before you de-stress but there is nothing like getting lost to take your mind off everything else.
There was no choice but to retrace my steps back to the beck and this time ignoring the arrow sign, I carried straight on and, to my relief, a walkers’ stile appeared around the next bend. From here the path wandered over pack horse bridges, up ancient paved causeways and past hidden waterfalls I had never seen before, despite being only a few miles from home. At the top of a hill the moorland suddenly appeared, with the purple heather so bright it seemed possible to reach out and touch it. I felt the sun on my face and my spirits lift. Any issues with work felt miles away.
The horizon was in sight but still a climb away. I had to be in Bradford for a meeting that evening so upped my pace, jogging past a reservoir and pushing through bracken and rushes, soaking my feet in the process. Once in the heather the path became more apparent but uneven and dotted with deep boggy holes. I was in a steep valley, like a tear in the earth with water pouring down through the cracks. After a steep rocky scramble I reached the crest of the hill with a long sweep of view down to my right, a stunning colourful view which I tried to capture on camera. As a small dot in this huge landscape any niggling work problems now seemed unimportant in the scheme of things. Up ahead was a rocky escarpment; from there, I decided, I would have reached my destination. Hurrying on with excitement and the satisfaction that I was soon to have achieved the twin goal of reaching the horizon and walking away my stress, I felt euphoric. In this glorious state I did not see the rock in the middle of the path that tripped me up and put me on my hands and knees while my phone flew out of my hand. In slow motion I watched it sail through the air and land in heather, falling through it to a deep bog beneath, taking with it my photos, my emails and my newly restored peace of mind.
I have had time since to reflect whether I would have been better off staying at home that day. I may have got some work done and would certainly still have a working phone, but on balance I’m still glad I went. It was a truly beautiful place to be and I have been back since to get some photos. It pricked the all absorbing bubble of work and helped get things in perspective. I have not looked at that horizon in the same way since.